One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."


We still haven’t had a frost yet.

But it has been darn cold lately, so I haven’t been standing around a lot outdoors, admiring the newly unfurled flowers of the imperial chrysanthemum.  It’s putting on a pretty amazing show this fall, whether I’m looking or not.  I will have to get you a long shot of it, as it’s making a great drift of these pale orange beauties.

This is the first year I’ve been especially diligent about pinching this plant back in the spring months about once a week until the Fourth of July and the results are remarkable.   But I think the profusion of flowers here owes something to those sad rainsoaked days of June, since I was pinching steadily as the plant was growing so quickly in response to the weather.  [I do think the plant’s a little floppy, though, so perhaps next year I’ll pinch back into mid-July or so and see if I can keep it a little lower and sturdier.]


The button zinnias on the porch are putting on more and more flowers as the season winds down.   It seems like it ought to be the other way around, but I think the cold weather (which is coming just a might early this year, it seems…)is actually cueing the plant’s reproduction cycle with the threat of a killing frost.   Annuals are such drama queens, eh?

No matter why, they are pretty little flowers.

And speaking of pretty, on a walk about a week or so ago, I finally met the tender of one of the gardens I’d been admiring on my summer walks, and she spoke to me of a chrysanthemum that grew with abandon, that sounds a bit like my imperial, only in a different color.   Here’s her pale pink version.   Perhaps I’ll talk with her next spring about maybe trading a couple of roots.




When last we spoke of it, Badum’s and my nightly catwalks were dwindling some in frequency, owing to earlier darkness and varying work schedule.  However, to combat that, for a while, we were taking longer walks, if fewer.


My buddy seems to share my fondness for hydrangeas, although I suspect he doesn’t sniff them for the blossoms so much as the scent of other creatures who may’ve brushed up against the bush.   Still, cute pic, no?

He definitely likes to know what’s going on and left to his own devices, would no doubt be one of those cats who makes daily rounds of a neighborhood, checking up on various residents.   I’m glad it’s the off-season and no one’s around, especially when he drags me up on someone’s porch for a look inside.


I have now learned that there is a very definite season for cat-walking.   Last Tuesday, with a temperature of 48 degrees, we headed outdoors for our walk.   My Purry Pal led me out the door and across the lawn to the corner of the barn, one of our standard opening trajectories.   We sniffed some grass and looked around a bit, then turned and headed back for the front door and ran upstairs to the Nest.  It was the first time he ever called a walk to an end and since it’s not warmed up very much since then (except when it was raining), hasn’t made a sound about going out again.  We’ll go whenever our next warm day comes.


Here you can see the look of disgust as he realized how chilly it was.


As October rolls steadily along towards its Halloween conclusion, decorations are beginning to pop up here and there, including at this cool house in Wellfleet, where every year they turn the yard into a monster mash of zombies and ghosts and ghouls and such.

The display was only just being carted out of storage and arranged around the yard the day Heather and I stopped for a few pictures.  I was amused to note Michael Jackson as a thrilling new addition this year (as well as the glue gun in the foreground) and made sure to sign the ghost book, which is kept under a glass dome on the table in  the yard.


And it reminds me that I wanted to tell you about a new videogame I discovered recently, called Plants Vs. Zombies.  The trial is a free download from PopCap and riotously entertaining.

The playing field is your front lawn.   With a zombie hoard shambling across the street toward your yard, you have to choose just the right plants for their defense capabilities:  pea shooters, potato “spud” bombs, cherry bombs, wall-nuts, and sunflowers all help protect you and your home from the invaders, who mean you no harm.   They only want to eat your brains.

Anyway, PopCap’s not paying me a red cent for saying so, but the free trial alone has brought me the gift of great laughter and hours of breathless entertainment.  I have just three words for you:  Zombie Bobsled Team.   Go on, you know you wanna check it out.  Plants Vs. Zombies.


With the weather so precipitously giving us The Finger, I’ve been turning my attention to the plants inside, who are sometimes neglected during the summer season, when so many others call for my attention outdoors.   This year, I’m happy to say I’ve got a pretty good crop of houseplants getting their groove on.


Here’s the hibiscus, repotted and moved indoors from its summer porch perch.

I recently gave all my indoor garden a bit of attention with dusting and misting and repotting and pruning and such the order of the day.  In the process, I discovered that the March-mas Cactus (a Christmas cactus which had bloomed in late March) was sporting a whole plant full of flower buds.

This plant spent the summer in a northern exposure window and as such was the first to feel the waning seasonal light, which is the cue to flower.  I’ve moved that plant in to the kitchen window, where the late day sunshine will encourage the buds to their best…and put the yellow flowering Christmas cactus out in that northern window in it’s place.

My plan’s working, too, as that plant has now begun to produce flower buds.  I’m an evil plant genius, eh?



Both of the marine heliotropes from the summer porch have been brought indoors for the winter.   Look how the flowers lose their purple color out of the direct light of the sun.   They’ll flower less frequently in the winter, but will still try every now and then.  The tiny blossoms lack the color punch of summer, but the sweet fragrance remains.  I’ve pruned both of these back now, to try to encourage a more compact, shrubbery growth for next year.   We’ll see how they respond.


Here’s something that looks like an accident, but is actually another evil plant genius plan in progress.   Behold, last Christmas’ amaryllis bulb.   It flowered memorably last winter and has since simply supported a beautiful array of green strappy leaves.

And then I remembered the secret my dear friend Alta Johnson taught me.    When the amaryllis has finished flowering and you’d like it to think about doing it again, you stop watering it and tip the plant over carefully on its side.  Eventually, the leaves die back, as the bulb absorbs the energy the leaves have been storing back into its bulb.  Once the leaves have dried out, you can remove them and stand the bulb right side up.

My bulb has only two leaves left on it now.  Once those have gone, I’ll give the bulb a little rest in a cool dark place and then bring it out into the light and start watering it again.  I figure six weeks from first watering is when there might be a blossom, and so I’ll try to time that out to happen around mid-December, when I’ll welcome the festivity.  Of course you’ll see how that works out.


Meanwhile, with no frost to stop it, the purple allyssum just keeps blooming and blooming.



Comments on: "Autumn Garden Report: The Big Chill" (4)

  1. lovely!

    last week we got snow. the snow managed to stay around for a few days. we let dutchess escape the house once to see her reaction to the new weather conditions. she wasn’t very impressed. of course that hasn’t stopped her from trying to get out again. the birds are gathering into flocks and flying about the house. it’s driving her from window to window…and more than a few hissy fits found their roots in the bird activity outside.

    yesterday we let her out again as we were unloading groceries from the car. she got to the second step and stopped…it was raining :) soon we’ll have more permanent snow on the ground and she’ll not want to go out into the cold and snow. then spring will come and she’ll happily run out again.

  2. I love the catventures. Especially when the point of view indicates you’re down there with him. Makes me grin. And in case your other readers haven’t discovered it, they should float their cursors over the pics to read the titles you’ve given them.

    So, there is method behind your gardening madness. This is an alien world to me, so it’s fascinating to read the “why” behind the “what.”

  3. Fun, Fun, Fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for this latest peek into your world!

  4. I wondered what His Purrness would do when the weather turned cold, whether he would beg to continue his walks. He’s a smart fellow. He sounds trustworthy, at least where cat walks are concerned.

    I like your evil plant genius plans. Very tricky.

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